So I was sitting under an umbrella on my blue yoga mat on the concrete and soaked stands watching Liam play lacrosse. This is what mothers do. We sit in the cold rain and wind to watch our kids get blindsided by a high check to the helmet and slammed to the AstroTurf so that they only play five minutes of the 60 minute game. It is reassuring to have the coach call today to check up on Liam who is certain he cracked a rib (I’m still not sure, but he didn’t play again).
Powerless to mother Liam, once he was off the field sitting on a wet bench in the whipping high winds recovering from strep throat and dizziness (I know – ugh!), I took up a chat with the mom to my right. She’s a reading specialist in our local elementary school. Quickly she discovered that I homeschool and run a business that teaches writing. I so appreciated her next question:
“So do you have a philosophy of writing?”
Brilliant! I don’t think anyone in casual conversation has ever asked me that. I dove in: Peter Elbow? Freewriting? Nurturing your writer? Supportive, validating feedback?
No on Elbow, no on freewriting, but yes on nurturing and supportive feedback. Thus a discussion ensued where we compared notes on how to encourage kids to talk, to express thoughts, to get their ideas out of their heads and onto paper. As I explained how freewriting works, a mom two wet bleachers below us, wheeled around to interrupt.
“Excuse me, I couldn’t help over hearing you. Please don’t mind me. It’s just that freewriting changed my son’s life.”
“Oh really,” I replied, excited to hear her “testify”!
“In third grade, my son had a teacher who completely changed my son’s life. Well, his writing life anyway. She taught her students how to write to a timer, how to put their thoughts to paper regardless of how they came out. Suddenly my son who had been a reluctant writer found his voice! He learned to write!”
She went on, as only moms can. She let us know that today, in junior high, when he has an assignment to complete at home and is stumped by it, she only has to say the name of that teacher and the word “freewriting” and suddenly he will check into himself and start writing. She was utterly blown away by how powerful that one practice has been in his life for the last four years.
Needless to say, the reading specialist next to me took note! She followed this testimonial with questions for me, comparing notes on how she might improve her students’ freedom in writing and thinking. I loved her comments that while she spends a lot of time helping kids to “read aloud,” it occurred to her last week that what these kids really needed was someone to talk to about what they were reading. We brainstormed some questions she could ask and how she could encourage better comprehension.
Despite the freezing cold rain, the whole space felt warmer simply from savoring the idea that children are valuable and can be led into greater and greater self-expression through supportive, friendly conversation and, of course, freewriting.